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Vick eyes first-ever mark for quarterback

FLOWERY BRANCH - Michael Vick doesn't know a whole lot about the guy he's chasing.

Then again, Vick has his eyes on a bigger prize.

One thousand yards.

With three games left, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback is poised to become the first player at his position to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He heads into Saturday night's crucial game against the Dallas Cowboys needing 66 yards to reach the historic figure - and he might be called on do even more running than usual with Atlanta's top two tailbacks hobbled by injuries.

''I've put all that on the back-burner,'' Vick said Wednesday. ''When you go into a game knowing there's certain milestones you can reach, you tend to press and try to do things so you can reach the milestone. The way I've gotten 900 yards rushing is just letting it come me. It's not by design.''

First up for Vick is the quarterback rushing record held by Bobby Douglass, who gained 968 yards for the Chicago Bears back in 1972. That mark is only 34 yards away from going over to Vick, who could break it in the same number of games - 14 - that teams played during Douglass' era.

''I've never met him and I don't really know much about him, but I respect everything he's done for the game,'' said Vick, who is averaging just under 72 yards per game and has surpassed 100 yards three times this season. ''He's held that record for a long time. Who knows if (breaking the mark) is going to happen? It might not happen. We'll see.''

With that, Vick broke into a big smile, knowing as well as anyone that it would likely take an injury for him to fall short of Douglass' record and a 1,000-yard season. In fact, the Falcons might put a few more designed runs into the gameplan for their one-of-a-kind quarterback if Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood are unable to play.

Dunn went out of last week's victory at Tampa Bay with a calf problem, and just a few plays later Norwood reinjured the knee that already caused him to miss a game earlier in his dynamic rookie season. Together, the two have rushed for 1,547 yards.

Fullback Justin Griffith, whose primary role has been to block for others, finished up at tailback and would get the start Saturday if Dunn and Norwood can't go. The replacement back gained 57 yards against the Buccaneers, nearly double his output for the first 12 games combined.

Dunn and Norwood were both held out of practice Wednesday and listed as questionable, though Vick was optimistic.

''We're thinking at least one of those guys is going to play,'' he said. ''My mind-set is not to do more in the running game.''

But the Falcons could draw up some plays that would make it easier for Vick to get outside. One idea: Put two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, allowing backup Matt Schaub to take the snap while Vick lines up elsewhere.

Just don't bring up the rather ludicrous suggestion - popular on the talk-show circuit and among Vick's critics - that the Falcons might be better off with Schaub starting at quarterback and No. 7 lining up at tailback.

''No, man, I'm a quarterback,'' Vick said. ''I don't play running back. That's not what I do. I throw the football, not run the football.''

Dallas coach Bill Parcells also chuckled at the thought of Vick moving to a new

position.

''I wish they would do that,'' Parcells said, ''because their first-string quarterback gives you a lot of problems when he's got his hands on the ball every play. If they put their second-string quarterback in, it means the first-team quarterback is not going to have the ball in his hands.That would catch me by surprise.''

Vick was held to a season-low 5 yards on three carries by Tampa Bay, which specifically designed its defense to keep him bottled up in the pocket. The last three opponents on the Falcons' schedule are sure to use some of the same techniques, but it's not likely to be enough to keep him for putting a new entry in the record book.

''You've got an athlete who's never been seen at the quarterback position,'' teammate Ike Reese said. ''I know he catches a lot of flak for being a running quarterback. But he could rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in the same season. That's just unheard of.''

For all the criticism that Vick gets about his passing, he looks like Dan Marino when compared to the left-hander who came before him. In 1972, Douglass completed less than 38 percent of his throws, with nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a dismal rating of 49.8.